Weighed down by guilt, yet buoyed by hope, 18-year-old Hằng arrives in Texas. For six years she had planned how to leave her native Vietnam to search for her younger brother Linh—a search that “equated to her life’s singular focus.” Tragically, the siblings had been separated at the end of the Vietnam War when Hằng’s brave strategy to escape the country with Linh went awry; Linh was taken to the United States and Hằng was left behind.
A day after her arrival in Texas, Hằng, clutching a paper with an address, flees her uncle’s home to find Linh. She meets LeeRoy, a pampered young man with a naïve dream of becoming a real cowboy. Their paths are relentlessly linked, though LeeRoy would love to be rid of the girl he can’t communicate with, and Hằng finds the boy a talkative nuisance.
When LeeRoy and Hằng eventually find Linh, the loving reunion Hằng had envisioned doesn’t materialize. Instead, Linh wants nothing to do with her. But Hằng won’t give up. Even as she deals with traumatic memories—life after the war when “her family shredded,” 12 days at sea on a flimsy boat, her stay at a refugee camp, and her speedy evacuation because of her Extreme Trauma status—Hằng persistently and creatively tries to win Linh’s attention and love and finds an unexpected home.
Butterfly Yellow is a realistic, gut-wrenching novel for young adults that offers a painful, yet hope-infused, picture of a refugee girl’s experiences—based on the reality of the unknowable number of refugees who lost their lives while escaping Vietnam and many who found freedom in other countries. Author Thanhha Lai skillfully portrays the intersection of the adolescent experience in two vastly different cultures and circumstances. She adroitly balances budding romance and humor with sadness and haunting memories. Profanity is expressed repeatedly by one character. (HarperCollins)